Whether at City Hall, the Gardner Museum, or the senior center, it’s no surprise to many residents of Greater Gardner that Tanya Barnett is this year’s Massachusetts recipient of AARP’s most prestigious volunteer award, the 2010 AARP Andrus Award for Community Service. The Gardner resident is dedicated to helping seniors, veterans, and others in need; supporting the arts; and preserving her town’s history and traditions for future generations. Mayor of Gardner Mark Hawke, State Rep. Robert Rice (D-2nd Worcester), AARP staff and volunteers recently joined Barnett’s family, friends, and colleagues to honor her during a luncheon ceremony at the Colonial Hotel in Gardner.
Enhancing the lives of many
“AARP has long celebrated and recognized the achievements and important contributions of dedicated volunteers across the country,” said AARP Massachusetts State President Linda Fitzgerald. “It’s through the efforts of Tanya and all volunteers here in the Bay State that we’ve been able to enhance the lives of our members and their families and address community concerns in Massachusetts.”
Ready to help anywhere
Community service is a way of life for Barnett – she believes in serving her community to help others in any way she can, but also finds a personal benefit to volunteering. “Staying busy and active is good for the mind and keeps you healthy,” she explained. Barnett volunteers for a number of community organizations in Greater Gardner, including the Gardner Museum, where she is co-chair for the annual “Festival of Trees” fundraiser; AARP Greater Gardner Chapter 3237, and at City Hall.
“Tanya is a rare gem. She loves her community and gives back whenever she can,” said Mayor Hawke. “When her hours were eliminated in the Personnel Department here at City Hall, she continued to work without pay for almost two years. When an unplanned retirement occurred in the City Clerk’s office just before the elections, Tanya once again volunteered her time to make sure things flowed smoothly.
“Tanya has done all this on top of her countless hours of dedicated volunteerism with numerous other area organizations. Gardner is lucky to have her.”
Barnett has made costumes for the Mount Wachusett Community College theater department, is a board member of the Knowlton Foundation and Montachusett Veteran’s Outreach Center, and has volunteered in Rep. Rice’s District Office on a regular and as-needed basis. In addition to “making sure that people are taken care of in whatever way I can help,” she is passionate about preserving the rich history of Gardner for the next generation.
More about Tanya Barnett
Tanya Barnett came to the United States with her family in 1949, following World War II. While fleeing from a Nazi concentration camp and hiding in various mausoleums, they were rescued by American troops. After spending several years in Germany’s Displaced Persons camp, her family found work in the United States, eventually settling in Indiana. Now longtime residents of Gardner, Barnett and her husband Warren moved to New England in 1969. Though Barnett retired in 1998 she has never stopped working, often continuing to help out in an unpaid capacity at her former places of employment when needed.
Barnett credits her parents for instilling a strong work ethic and sense of civic duty. “We worked hard, we learned the language, and we got our citizenship in five years. My father taught me that we had to do our best to give back to the country that took us in. Giving back to the community is so important.”
“Ms. Barnett is one of the most giving and compassionate people I have had the good fortune to meet and work with,” said Debra Pond, director of Personnel for the City of Gardner and clerk for the Montachusett Veteran’s Outreach Center. “She has always and continues to assist anyone who asks for her help. As a result of her dedication and hard work, she also inspires others to volunteer.”
About the AARP Andrus Award
The AARP Andrus Award for Community Service is given annually to one AARP member in every state. In Massachusetts, the selection committee for this year’s award included Linda Fitzgerald, state president, AARP Massachusetts; Mary Kay Browne, senior project and program director, Executive Office of Elder Affairs; Kurt Czarnowski, regional communications director, Social Security Administration; Joseph Feaster, Executive Council member, AARP Massachusetts; Chet Jakubiak, executive director, Massachusetts Association on Aging; Bob Linscott, assistant director, the LGBT Aging Project; and Louise Myers, Executive Council member, AARP Massachusetts.
The committee evaluated nominees based on a range of criteria, including how their volunteer work positively impacts the lives of individuals 50 and over, how their work improves the community, and how they inspire others to volunteer. To be eligible for the award, nominees must be AARP members, must have accomplished the volunteer service for which they are nominated during the period of Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2009, and must have completed the service without pay.
Create the Good
Looking for a way to make a difference in your community? AARP’s Create the Good can connect you to projects in your neighborhood, or help you start a project of your own. Current opportunities in Massachusetts include volunteering with Project Bread to help eligible seniors in your community enroll in SNAP, the state’s food assistance program. Visit Create the Good for more information.